As our culture changes, so does our language. The words that surround us every day influence our mindset and shape the way we think and act. For brand experts who both reflect culture and influence it, this is all the more important as the language we use is integral to the way we imagine, create and shape the brands of the future.
Branding is a constantly changing, progressive discipline. Then how come the language of branding lags so far behind? ‘Brand positioning’, ‘target audience’, ‘brand DNA’, ‘consumer insights’… These are the terms we still widely use today to guide our thinking and express our visions in the world of branding. In a world where we Uber, Skype and Netflix, an age where brands have transformed into living breathing entities, where language renews itself producing new expressions all the time, branding still uses old notions of decades past, with vocabulary borrowed from other fields of expertise. And they all come from the dominant forces of another time:
Targeting and positioning go back to the precision of military science that dominated the first part of the 20th century, the same era that produced the rise of political campaigns and mass media audiences.
Midway through the last century, from the 50s on, psychology as an avant-garde discipline opened up a whole new level of understanding into the human psyche and introduced us to notions of personality and analysis.
Sociology took us from individualistic to social thinking, mirroring the social revolution of the 60s and 70s, and gave us archetypes and ethnography, the study of groups and patterns to understand human behaviour.
Following the commercial culture of the 80s, we humanised our approach in the 90s and emotional branding became the way forward with a big emphasis on love and connection.
A human tone and language dominated branding for a long time until the new Millennium became all about infinite connectivity, the collective and the community in the 00s.
Today, we are turning our attention back to science. As we continue to be fascinated by the human mind, neuroscience vocabulary such as memory structures and System I & II start to permeate our language. Just like in the past we have drawn from the military, politics, psychology, sociology and various concepts of humanity, we now take biology as our reference point. All knowledge and understanding of human processes is essential to branding. Learning from other disciplines enriches us and opens our minds up to new ways of thinking.
But branding more than anything is a creative process. And brands are the contemporary currency of our time. In our highly experiential and infinitely expressive world, we need to originate – not adopt – our own language.
We must create a multi-dimensional language that reflects our times. A language that is more sensitive to the unique nature of every brand and taps into their physical, emotional and sensorial layers. Enabling us to imagine how the brands of the future will fully exist in the world and what will make them truly desirable as they live and evolve with us.
How about the energy of a brand? The presence it holds and the aura it projects. The way it feels, thinks, moves and changes over time. We need to amplify a brand’s total experience from its sense of identity to its defining aesthetic, unleashing the seductive elements that make it one of a kind. We should find ways to express brand timing, rhythm and magic.
These are no longer just the elements we consider as designers – they are essential to defining the brands of the future. And they form a language of desire that speaks for a modern notion of branding: more dynamic, deep and dimensional just like the brands that are emerging today and those we have yet to create.
Originally published in Branding Magazine here.